Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Khavaran Cemetery (part 2)

An important sign of systematic and gross human rights violation by the Islamic Republic of Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) crushed all the political opposition groups and civil society institutions in the 80s. Thousands of the political opponents were executed or disappeared. Ironically, the suppression initiated other type of resistance. For example many of the victims’ families who have wanted to know the truth about what had happened to their loved ones and asked for justice and accountability for the atrocities, despite all pressure by the authorities, wrote letters to the authorities and international organizations and went to governmental departments like judiciary system and parliament to put forward their requests and show their protest against the injustice. They gather in the cemeteries to commemorate the victims and hold commemoration ceremonies in their residences. The efforts made by the victims’ families are a resistance to the IRI’s formal policy of amnesia and denial.
Khavaran was and still is one of the gathering locations of the victims’ families. In the last 29 years, they have gone to Khavaran cemetery regularly on Friday morning to show their love and respects to the victims. The following photos give you an idea of what has been the situation in Khavaran.
I took the following photos on August 22, 2008. A few months later, the IRI bulldozed the Khavaran cemetery and removed all the gravestones, trees and any other signs. I wish I had other photos to show what Khavaran looks like after the destruction. In the first part of my posting on Khavaran, I published two satellite images of Khavaran after and before the destruction in January 2009.
After the destruction of Khavaran, I contacted Tehran city council and talked with two councillors (Mohammad Ali Najafi and Ahmad Masjed-Jamei), Tehran municipality, Behesht Zahra organization (Behesht Zahra is the main Muslim cemetery in Tehran and Behesht Zahra organization is responsible for all cemeteries in Tehran and is part of Tehran municipality) and also with the architect who was responsible to prepare a design for the reorganization of all the cemeteries in Tehran. Despite all of my efforts, I was not able to find an answer to the following questions:
1- Based on what law or regulation the IRI bulldozed the Khavaran.
2- Why the removed the topsoil? How deep they went? Have they removed the remaining of the victims?
3- Who was responsible for the destruction? Based on whose order?


Picture 1- Khavaran cemetery; view from the main entrance. This entrance has been closed on the families after January 2009. Look at the few trees on this deserted land.

Picture 2- This grave we assume that belongs to my sister Zahra Behkish.
Zahra Behkish arrested on August 25, 1983, in Tehran and killed/disappeared at the same day or the days after under torture. The authorities never revealed what has happened to her and her exact burial location. When my family went to Khavaran Cemetery, the other victims’ families told them: close to the date of her killing/disappearance, the authorities buried a new victim in this location. However, we need to do a forensic test to make sure she is really buried there. Many of the families are very concern that the authorities removed the remaining of the victims in the last destruction in January 2009.

Picture 3- The photo of my brothers and sister who were killed/disappeared by the IRI:
From left to right: Mohsen Behkish (21 at his arrest on August 25th, 1983, and 23 at his execution on April 14, 1985. He was buried by the authorities in Behesht Zahra-there is no confirmation), Mohammad-Reza Behkish (26 at his assassination on March 15, 1982. His burial location is unknown), Siamak Assadian (Zhara’s husband killed in a shooting on September 5, 1981. He was buried in his hometown), Zahra Behkish (37 at her arrest and disappearance), Mahmoud Behkish (32 at his arrest on August 25, 1983 and 37 at his killing/disappearance on August 27 or 28, 1988) and Mohammad-Ali Behkish (19 at his arrest on August 25, 1983 and 24 at his killing/disappearance on August 28, 1988). Mahmoud and Mohammad-Ali were sentenced to 10 and 8 years imprisonment respectively by the revolutionary courts. But they according to their cellmates were hanged/disappeared on August 27 or 28, 1988, in the great massacre of summer 1988 (according to survivors of the massacre). Their burial location is unknown. But like other families of the leftist victims of the great massacre of 1988, my family think they were buried in the mass graves in Khavaran Cemetery. However, it is necessary to do a forensic test to find out who were buried in these mass graves.

Picture 4- Ms. Najiyeh Peyvandi dreamed that her executed/disappeared son (Mehrdad Panahi Shabestari) was buried in this location in one of the mass graves was discovered in Khavaran after the great massacre of 1988. It is 22 years that she is going to Khavaran each Friday morning to keep his name and memory alive.
Mehrdad Panahi Shabestari (My brother in law) has been arrested in January 1984. In March 1986, he was convicted to 3 years imprisonment by the revolutionary tribunals. He was hanged/disappeared in August 29, 1988, in the great massacre of the summer of 1988 in Evin Prison (according to survivors of the massacre).

Picture 5- Changiz Arshi was executed on July 4, 1981, a few days after his arrest. He was buried in Khavaran Cemetery. His families wrote his name on a peace of stone, because, in the last 29 years, the authorities have not allowed them to put a gravestone on his grave.

Picture 6- A sign on a grave in Khavaran cemetery. The families are not allowed to plant trees or flowers. The victims’ families put the flowers inside a bottle of water, with the hope the flowers will stay fresh for few hours.

Picture 7- The location of the commemoration ceremony for the victims of the great massacre of the summer of 1988 on the mass graves in Khavaran

Picture 8- The commemoration ceremony for the great massacre of 1988 on the mass graves in Khavaran (This photo is taken from internet)

Picture 9- The plot where several mass graves were discovered after the summer of 1988 great massacre. The victims of the massacre were buried in these mass graves. Behind the wall is the Armenians’ cemetery. The curb on the top right is the border of the plot belongs to Bahá’ís.

Picture 10- A view of Khavarn from the other side. The main entrance is visible in this photo.

Picture 11- The grave of Mojtaba Ahmadzadeh. He was executed in October 29, 1981 only few days after his arrest. After his two brothers were executed in the Shah’s regime, he was the only son of his fother Mr. Taher Ahmadzadeh. Mr. Taher Ahmadzadeh was in prison in the shah’s regime for couple of years and was the first governer of the Khorasan province after the Feburary 1979 revolution. But he was arrested in the 80s and remained in prison for couple of years. The Authorities forced him to a televised recantation.

Picture 12- The grave stone for Bagher Yazdani who was executed on August 27, 1981. The families put the broken gravestone, with the hope that for the next time the security forces become ashamed of what they had done.

Picture 13- Another sign in Khavaran.

Picture 14- Some of the families thought the cement is the only way that they can use to identify the grave of their loved ones. They wrote on the cement “salute you”.

Picture 15- The photos of a victims in his anniversary. His family puts lots of flowers on his grave.

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